We will fight for peace, but we will do no violence.

Monday, December 15, 2014

"The Shocking Move to Criminalize Nonviolent Protest" - TedTalk

On the heels of the detainment of our friends at Solidarity Uganda, we find this TedTalk:

"In 2002, investigative journalist and TED Fellow Will Potter took a break from his regular beat, writing about shootings and murders for the Chicago Tribune. He went to help a local group campaigning against animal testing: "I thought it would be a safe way to do something positive," he says. Instead, he was arrested, and so began his ongoing journey into a world in which peaceful protest is branded as terrorism." From


Editor's note: Phil, and his wife Suzan, run a non-profit called Solidarity Uganda. Friends of PFC, they live in Uganda where they offer seminars and clinics training folks about strategic non-violence. We're proud of the work they're doing, and honored to know of them. 

Recently, at one such training, Phil, Suzan, and others attending the training were detained when 'the District Police Commander and other armed personnel forcefully interrupted' their meeting 'without warning'. Suzan was released after 24-hours, however, Phil was detained—without charge—beyond the legal 48-hour period. He has since been released. SU reports that still, "Security personnel in the region have been FOLLOWING, INTIMIDATING, and THREATENING [those who were at the training], promising to make their lives hell." We praise God for Phil's safe release, and continue to stand, in solidarity, with them and the work they are doing. 

An excerpt from Phil's blog on the Solidarity Uganda site:

My friends, the times are evil indeed, but among you I have found an exception to this rule.  We had no idea we had enough clout for so many allies (local and international) to come to our aid like this, which really helped ensure our well-being.

I say “our” – not “my” – because I have spent six days in cells with three concerned citizens of Uganda who are now among my closest friends: Okullu Tonny Fred (student), Orach Vincent (neighbor), and Ocen Ambrose (District Council V, Dokolo).  My beautiful and fearless wife Suzan was also held in a cell for about 24 hours with us.

So although there has been much concern as to why an American citizen has been detained for more than the legally-allotted 48 hours, we should be more actively questioning why anybody – man, woman, or youth (yes, youth) – is being held in inhumane conditions, especially before being convicted of any crime.  Let us shift our focus to the situation at large, rather than focusing on my personal arrest.

We Are Not Yet Free
While there has been much cause for celebration over our release on police bond yesterday morning, to begin using terms like “free” would distort our situation for several reasons:

1) We are expected to return to Central Police Station Lira (one of the two places where we were held and interrogated) on 18 December at 10:00 AM local time.  At this time, we will be receiving more information about our case regarding whether we will be taken to court.

2) Plain-clothes government authorities are still following us, especially those attendees of our informal dialogue on peace-building, human rights, public service delivery, and advocacy who were not present in the meeting at the time of the arrest.  Those who have been spending the past week in cells are actually physically safer than those who have not.

3) Members of our community have been threatened with arrest simply for trying to visit us.

How You Can Help
Therefore, we ask all of you to continue monitoring our situation and help us achieve justice in the following ways:

- Support the organization Solidarity Uganda financially at .  Many resources have been used up during this time, including large sums for transportation, communication, and mobilizing various forms of support.  We have had some tremendous support via our friends through the GoFundMe initiative ( ).  This short-term support will help defray many of the incurred expenses, but the long-term support of monthly donors is now becoming even more crucial.  This is not something which happened yesterday and will be over tomorrow.

- Stay tuned on any possible progress of our case through the Solidarity Uganda Facebook page to see how you can help.  I am hereby appointing a team of Megan Clapp, Brett Foote, Nathan Richard Sooy, and Oyaka Makmot to streamline communication with the social media public so that those of us trying to reorganize our lives after our arrest are not bombarded with messages asking for basic information which can be received through these individuals.

- Share this statement broadly.  If you are concerned about who to write to at this point, ask Ambassador DeLisi (US Embassy Kampala) to publicly ask President Museveni to uphold Article 29 of Uganda’s constitution, which protects the rights to Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of Speech and Conscience, Freedom to Protest Unarmed and Peacefully, and Freedom to Form/Join Associations and Organizations.  Let’s use my “American citizenship privilege” to advocate for justice here, since we know that much government funding and support in Uganda comes from the US.

Image of Phil, Suzan & Daughter.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Palestinians and Jews Take A Lesson From Berlin

Due to the many events that transpired this past year, specifically the war during the summer, we decided to organize a trip for our young adults. So much was written and said, but very few meetings took place for Israeli and Palestinian young adults who are the rising leaders in their respective societies. Many expressed an interest in meeting, talking, and working through the events of the past months together.
As we began to look into areas to hold the conference, we also looked at Berlin. We have never taken a group here before, but the German capitol holds great appeal. Israel-Palestine is not unique to the world in terms of conflict; many other countries have their own histories of struggle and we can learn from their experiences. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, and the unification of Germany. We thought it would be a good opportunity to look at Germany's approach to move beyond animosity and division, a time to visit the Holocaust memorial, and an occasion to reflect on the consequences of hatred and extremism.
This November 2014, we took a group of 18 Israeli and Palestinian young adults and three leaders to Berlin. The focus of the conference revolved around the question, "How do we react during times of conflict?" We began by examining the incidents of the summer, and each side's perspective of what happened. We then discussed how we reacted as individuals and the effects of the conflict on our respective communities. We also reflected on how our spiritual leaders and community leaders publicly responded during the summer through reading various online publications. The purpose of this was to determine whether or not there were voices for reconciliation in our communities, and how we address "the other" during times of crisis.
During the discussion on our leaders' response to the conflict, one participant said "it makes the war personal." If you think about it, it is one thing to read an article from your leader in your home on a screen, and it is another to read the same article with fellow brothers and sisters from the "other side" in Berlin.
There were very different approaches between the communities. Israeli-Palestinian Christian media and websites focused on reporting news related to Christians in Gaza, and they strived to present a balanced view of Israeli and Palestinian struggles. They had a clear call for reconciliation during the war. For Palestinians from the West Bank, the focus was on Christians in Gaza, and a call for justice, prayer, healing and protection. Some of the Palestinian Christian leaders from the West Bank also discussed Israel's disproportionate use of power during the war, and possible solutions to the occupation.

In general, the evangelical Palestinian Christian voice, even the ones that were overtly political in nature, called for reconciliation and peace during the war. They also tried to portray the pain and fears of the Israeli side. At the same time, there were very few evangelical Palestinians who wrote during the war, and none of them were women.
For the most part, the Palestinian Christian participants in Berlin felt that some of the articles represented them. One noted, "What the writers said is what people see. This is their reality." The Messianic Jewish participants reacted with disapproval to the political statements in the Palestinian Christian articles. They did not feel that the articles attempted to sympathize with Israel's situation to an adequate degree.
When examining articles from the Messianic Jewish community, there were many more websites and writers to consider. The Bible was often referenced in Messianic Jewish articles published during the war, particularly with regard to prophecy. They tended to portray the current situation as good versus evil. Many of the writers condemned and blamed Palestinians, seeing their suffering as a consequence of their own actions. There were many calls to prayer focusing on Israel's victory.
In response to the Messianic Jewish articles, the Messianic Jewish participants felt their personal opinions were not represented. They voiced that the articles published by their own community during the war actually posed an obstacle to reconciliation. The Palestinian Christian response to Messianic Jewish articles ranged widely. Some found the material dismissible, and others voiced their disapproval of the content. They also agreed that the articles pose an obstacle to reconciliation.

There were some commonalities between the leadership articles. Both communities used scripture to justify what they wrote, and it was confusing to follow some of switch between politics and scripture. One participant noted, "Just because they are saying a verse, it doesn't mean what they say is spiritual." Both communities tended to focus on the situation without voicing any self-criticism. There was a rush to see fault in the other side, without looking at one's own contribution to the deteriorating situation.
The discussion of the articles was intense. Afterwards, many stressed the need to pray for our leaders. Some participants noted that they know many people who made a decision not write anything during the war. And we saw the result. The more 'extreme' voices in our communities speak loudly, often silencing voices of dissent, and as a result, we tend to think that these 'extreme' voices represent the community.
In our final discussion, we talked about how we should react in the future during times of conflict. We affirmed that there is a need for more moderate voices among us to speak up, and support one another in doing so. We spent time looking at verses challenging us to be a prophetic voice to society. We also learned about the life and work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer under the Nazi regime, and his response during that time.
We left the conference feeling that we were truly able to share our hearts with each other, even when we disagreed. We realized how important it is that we do meet and talk frequently, as it is important to maintaining our relationships. Both sides exhibited great efforts to empathize with the other side, and they approached each other with much maturity and care for one another. We returned home determined to meet again soon, and committed to being more active in reconciliation in our respective communities.
By Jack Munayer and Shadia Qubti